Wildcat waiting game after CCHA elimination

Delaney Lovett

After losing in the first round of CCHA playoffs to Bowling Green State University on March 2-4, the Wildcats await the outcome of this weekend’s games to see if they’ll have the opportunity to play again this season.

There are several situations in which Northern Michigan could get back into playoffs, but the two easiest to predict are if either Western Michigan or Cornell University loses its upcoming games.

Head coach Walt Kyle said the ’Cats made a big push forward, moving from No. 38 in the country last year to No. 16 this year.

“To have it end like this is really disheartening now,” Kyle said. “There’s always the possibility you can creep back into [playoffs] NCAA-wise, but that certainly wasn’t our goal or what we were trying to do.”

In the meantime, Northern Michigan players are skating after a week off and keeping their hopes up, Kyle said.

“The one good thing about it right now is the disappointment of the loss gets out of your head pretty quick, and you can catch a second breath,” Kyle said.

Freshman defenseman Mitch Jones said the team knows the outcomes are not in their control, but they’ll be ready if they’re given the chance.

“If it happens, we’re going to be prepared and we’re going to take advantage of that opportunity,” Jones said. “If not, then that’s the way it goes.”

The Wildcats won their first game 4-2 against the Bowling Green Falcons on Friday, March 2. NMU was knocked out of the tournament with a 5-3 loss on Saturday and a 4-1 loss on Sunday.

The Falcons beat Northern Michigan in the first round last year as well. This year, Bowling Green went on to beat Ferris State, who was ranked No. 1 in the CCHA.

“The whole weekend, we looked really nervous,” Kyle said. “We had some good players make some really nervous plays, so I wasn’t happy with that.”

Kyle said the ’Cats had a good effort on Friday and the first half of Saturday, but there was a string of bad penalties that changed Saturday’s game and eventually the entire series.

“At times we played well, and at times we just weren’t fully committed,” Jones said. “Discipline was a thing that really hurt us in that series.”

NMU’s penalty kill was strong, only allowing one Bowling Green power-play goal. However, their 18 penalties over the weekend took away several Wildcat power-play opportunities.

Despite the disappointing end to the series, senior right wing Tyler Gron earned a First-Team selection, and senior left wing Justin Florek was named to the CCHA Second Team. Florek is also a finalist for the CCHA Best Defensive Forward.

To keep a positive attitude in the locker room, Kyle explained to the team that they have body work in the CCHA regular season and body work in the CCHA playoffs. The NCAA then encompasses those into one body, Kyle said.

“Because of that whole body of work and because we had a successful season in that regard, we’re sitting at 16 with an opportunity to move to 13, 14 or 15 based on other teams’ losses,” Kyle said.

Kyle said they cannot make a call until the last game has been played, but they are in a hopeful position.